How to dab cannabis concentrates: oil, shatter, wax, and more

While learning how to smoke dabs may seem daunting at first, once you read about it, it will become easier. This resource will teach you how to take a dab the right way for your first time.

In essence, dabbing is the act of inhaling cannabis concentrates after they have been flash vaporized. It’s important to remember that concentrates (you might be familiar with shatter, wax, BHO, oil, etc.) have a lot more potency than flower.

It is common for buds to contain between 15-25% THC, while concentrates typically contain between 50-80% THC, depending on the extract type and quality. Some CBD extracts are non-intoxicating and offer quick therapeutic effects without cerebral euphoria, but in some regions these oils are hard to find.

You may not be able to dab if you’re brand new to weed. Concentrates are more delicate, but once you become adept at dosage, they can offer you unique physical effects and mental clarity. Additionally, you are inhaling more cannabinoids (e.g. THC, CBD) and less combusted resin if you use extracts instead of flower. Here are some tips for dabbing.

What dab tools are needed?

Keep in mind that dabbing technology is constantly evolving as you learn how to use a dab rig. In a traditional setup, the following items are included:

路         Dab rig. Like a bong, this water pipe will have a fitting for a nail.

路         Nail. This is the bowl where you place the concentrate for your bong. Currently, quartz bangers in buckets are the norm. E-nails are gaining popularity, as well as ceramic and titanium. You need to use the correct nail size for your dab rig’s joint: If the stem of your rig is 14mm, then you need a 14mm nail. In addition to the gender of the nail, men can get female rigs with male nails, and vice versa.

路         Dabber. Apply the concentrate to the nail using this tool. You can choose a shape according to the texture and consistency of the concentrate you are dabbing, whether it’s metal, glass, ceramic, or a combination of those.

路         Carb cap. A device such as this is highly recommended, although it isn’t necessary.  

路         Torch. For cr猫me brulee, you can use mini-torches, but you’ll need propane for them. As mentioned above, e-nails are becoming more common (but more expensive) and eliminate the need for a torch.

路         Cannabis extract. Dabbing concentrates come in a variety of forms, but the most common ones are shatter, wax, BHO, and solventless extracts such as rosin.

路         (Optional): Dab mat. Maintain a clean and non-sticky dabbing surface.

路         (Optional): Timer. Make sure you heat your nail consistently dab after dab.

How to dose cannabis oils and concentrates

It can also be challenging to measure a dab. As different extracts contain different levels of THC, you should check the potency of your concentrate before dabbing it. As a general rule, it’s best to take a relatively small dose at first and slowly increase it over time.

A small dose is no larger than a crumb. It may not seem like much, but that’s a lot of THC going straight to the dome at the same time. It can seem jarring at first, but as you gain tolerance, dabbing becomes less intense.


Concentrate packaging must include information about cannabinoids in legal markets. Percentages are used to measure potential. Hash oil derived from solvents contains between 60 and 90% cannabinoids, with some exceeding 90%. Several solventless concentrates have potencies below 50% total cannabinoids.

In the example above, if your hash contains 80% total THC that would mean it contains 800mg of cannabinoids total. For reference, an edible should be taken in doses of 5-10mg as a starting point. Generally, dabbing is only for those who are more experienced with cannabis. Getting a 5mg dab from a piece of hash is difficult.

Each portion will contain 100mg of cannabinoids if you split that gram of hash into eight equal portions. A 25mg dab off an 800mg slab is easier than splitting a concentrate into eight pieces with the naked eye. Approximately two grains of couscous are what a 25mg dab with 80% total THC amounts to.  

Always start small

Take the smallest dab your tool will allow and use that as a reference point. It is easy to micro-dab more than once, and it has many benefits. Choose a dab size that works for you.

Dabs of different sizes鈥攁nd different cannabinoids ratios鈥攚ill affect people differently. Our endocannabinoid systems all function differently, so a 25mg dab of THC is not guaranteed to give you the same psychoactive effects as your friend. You should start small and work your way up if you want to find out what dose works for you.

How do you dab?

Once the rig is set up and you’ve prepared your dab on the dabber, you’re ready to go. We recommend sitting down while taking a dab, since it may be intense.

路 Step 1: Turn on your torch and aim it directly at the nail. It is common for people to heat their nails until they become red hot. Refer to the section below for more information on heating an electronic nail.

路 Step 2: When the nail is hot, turn off your torch. Quartz nails should be allowed to cool for at least 45 seconds (and about 10 seconds for titanium), so the surface temperature isn’t too high-a timer can be helpful here. More tips on how to get the right temperature can be found in this article.

Step 3: Dab your nail straight onto the dabber and slowly inhale. The dabber tip can be rotated on the nail to prevent oil from getting stuck there.

路 Step 4: Cover the dab with a carb cap and finish inhaling. The carb cap will help regulate the airflow. Don’t forget to cap your dab.

路 Step 5: Take a deep breath and enjoy!

It is not safe to dab nails when they are extremely hot. Make sure you handle these pieces carefully and only touch them after they have cooled.

How to clean your nail

Carbon, reclaimed oils, and particulates can accumulate in the nail after a dab. There are many people who clean their nails after each hit, but you should at least do it at the end of each session. You can clean your nails in the following ways:

Torch. A torch is the simplest way to remove any carbon residue on your dab nail by burning it off with the flame. If you are using this method on ceramic or quartz nails, be careful not to expose your red hot nail to a rapid change in temperature or you may risk a stress fracture. Let your nail cool completely before completing a final scrape. Once it is red hot and any residue has dissipated, you can finish it off.

Scrape. To remove minor buildup, lightly scrape your nail with a dabber tool. Glass should not be chipped.

Wash. Soak your nails in 91% isopropyl alcohol for ten minutes.

What are e-nails?

To take a dab, you use the common torch-and-nail method, but e-nails are becoming increasingly popular.

The cost of E-nails, or electronic nails, is greater than that of standard nails, but is often worthwhile for serious dabbers. By doing this, they eliminate the need for a nail and a torch, which are the most dangerous parts of dabbing. Furthermore, you can control the nail’s temperature completely. Dabbing with this feature is a fantastic way to make the most out of flavors and terpenes.

Watch out for the latest trends and products to improve your dabbing game! Dabbing technology is constantly improving and expanding, so stay up to date!

Patrick Bennett contributed to this article as well.

This post was originally published on December 9, 2015. It was most recently updated on June 30, 2020.